What is the difference between a spirit and a soul? Is there a difference? Let’s turn to Scripture to find out.
Proof text #1: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Here God, through Paul, clearly makes a distinction that our being is made up of three parts, spirit, soul, and body. In this verse He is asking God to keep pure the whole person and lists soul and spirit separately.
Proof Text #2: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11-12)
Again, the writer of Hebrews divides soul and spirit, even emphasizing their division similar to the division between joints and marrow. Both are parts of the same body. Both have their purpose, but they are clearly two different things.
From these verses we clearly see that soul and spirit are different. But just how are they different? In Scripture it appears to go like this. The soul is the part of us that connects to other human beings. The spirit is the part that connects to God and covers matters like faith, trust, worship and so on. The spirit is seen as the innermost part of our being. It is enveloped by our soul, which in turn is enveloped by our body.
The spirit is where we can make our claim to be in the image of God, from John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Our spirit connects us to God in an intimate way being of the same substance.
When God wants to connect to us in a pure way, He doesn’t send a soul, He sends His Spirit. His Holy Spirit works with our own spirit to guide us to faith and truth. His Holy Spirit works with our spirit to bring us to completion.
Without the spirit, our bodies would be inanimate shells. Jesus told His followers in John 6:63, many who were at this time falling away because they couldn’t understand Him, that it is the Spirit who gives life. This is true if you are speaking of the Holy Spirit, who gives us spiritual life or about our own spirits that work to activate our bodies toward service, faith, trust and worship. When the spirit leaves a body, it has no more life in it.
Scripture also shows us that our spirits, though they can connect us to God in an intimate way, can also be separated from God. 1 John 4:1 warns us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Whereby we all have spirits, some have separated themselves from the Holy Spirit. Without this connection they become lost just as those who disconnect themselves from God get lost in worldliness. Without its anchor, the lost spirit is susceptible to sin and easily led to destruction.
Part of what defines us as Christians is our connection in spirit to God. 1 John 4:13 tells us, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He is us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” God sends His Holy Spirit to us all, but not everyone accepts His invitation to abide. He will not force our spirit to do anything because love and devotion cannot be forced, but He will never stop working with our spirit to bring us to the truth.
Our spirit is that thing we must surrender to God so that His Holy Spirit can work with our spirit in our weakness, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
Part of the miracle of life is the spirit within us. Every civilization who has ever lived has believed in a spirit. Even those who do not believe in God often confess that there is more to us than the things that make up our mortal body. Where do you stand and in what standing are you in spirit? Is your connection to God what it should be? Pray that your spirit might be one with the Holy Spirit so that you too might be led to the truth. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, Thank you for creating within us a spirit by which we may connect with You in a real way. Continue to work in us through Your Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth. Amen.